Dennis Tito: First Tourist in Space
For Dennis Tito, nothing on Earth can equal the thrill of gazing into the empyrean while listening to Verdi on his Discman. "It was like being on drugs," he says, "or what I imagine drugs would be like." Now the 61-year-old Santa Monica investment banker and former NASA engineer—who paid about $20 million to spend six days last spring on the International Space Station—is feeling more, well, earthbound. "I don't think Dennis's flight satisfied him," says ex-astronaut and old friend Buzz Aldrin. "Maybe in a couple of years he'd want to go around the moon and back." An unquenchable Tito explains, "You could say my goal is to come up with a new goal."
The son of Italian immigrants, Tito, who grew up in Queens, had to overcome NASA's objection to a billionaire's boldly going where no civilian had ever been. Thanks to Russia's cash-strapped space program, he was permitted to fly on his own dime. After his dream trip ended, he said, "I've just come home from paradise." Home for Tito, divorced since 1991 and the father of three grown children, is a 30,000-sq.-ft. Tudor mansion in Pacific Palisades. There, on an 18th-century French sofa in the library, he contemplates life after space. "I think about my flight," he says. "I have several cups of tea, and I just think." As he speaks, Tito's eyes are drawn upward, past the ceiling. Somewhere out there, he still floats weightlessly, listening to Verdi as worlds pass him by.
On Newsstands Now
- Brad's Devotion: The Inside Story
- Oklahoma Tornado: Heroic Rescues
- Michael Douglas on Catherine's Health
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine